Ustad Qasim was born âQasimjoâ in 1878 at Gozar Barana area of Kabul where his father Nawab Sitarjo a renowned musician himself was invited by Amir Maousuf from Kashmir to play at the royal court years earlier. Sitarjo married in Kabul and remained there with his wife. Qasimjo studied at a local madrasa where aside from religious studies, no other subjects were thought. At home he would study musical theory at the feet of his father. He had mastered Urdu from his father, Dari from his mother, Pashtu from his teacher and Arabic from the religious school.
Qasimjo instantly grasped the theory music and show abundant talent for singing and reciting Ghazal. His knowledge of Indian, Pashtu and Dari ghazals from renowned poets made him famous amongst the Kharabaian of the era. His thirst for knowledge forced his father to send Qasimjo to Qurban Ali Khan, the father of Ustad Natu and master of classical music. Qasimjo's popularity had reached the royal house of the king and within days he was appointed the court singer of King Abdul Rahman Khan in 1898, making him the youngest court singer at the tender age of 20. Qasimjo was awarded an ivory worked Rubab and a 200 afghani salary which was an exuberant amount of money for his services to the court.
According to Afghanland.com sources, Upon Amir Habibullah Khanâs decent to power Qasimjo was retained as the court singer and awarded with an Harmonium, Accordion, Violin, and a Mandolin and thereafter created a school of music in Kabul in years to come. After mastering a variety of musical instruments Amir Habibullah Khan awarded him the Title of Ustad Qasim.
King Amanullah who grew up with the music of Ustad Qasim retained him as the court singer when descended to the thrown in 1919. Amanullah Khan was so enchanted with the voice and songs of Ustad Qasim that he would dress as a commoner and would visit Ustad Qasim's house in order to hear him sing. On his state visit to Europe and Asia King Amanullah Khan had recorded a phonograph recording of Ustad Qasim's music that he would listen to away from home. It was recorded that during a visit from a British representative to Kabul, Ustad Qasim was summoned to play music for the guests. One of the guests had asked Ustad Qasim to teach him an afghan song for he could play it on the piano, Ustad Qasim thought him the now famous âOur School is of Independence and our Subject of study is the air of Independenceâ which had ignited the crowed with applause. King Amanullah proudly awarded Ustad Qasim the highest civilian title of Ustad Qasim âAfghanâ.
On August 19 1922 Ustad Qasim Afghan invited great masters of Indian Music to perform at the second annual celebration of Independence. At this event Ustad Peyara Khan of India took great liking to the style of Ustad Qasim that he assigned two of his students; Ustad Natu and Ustad Saber to study at Ustad Qasimâs School of Music and Ustad Qasim as a kind gesture sent two of his students with Ustad Peyara Khan back to India. This exchange of students legitimized Ustad Qasimâs School of Afghan Music in India.
Ustad Qasim Afghan has many students in Afghanistan and abroad, some of the more famous students are: Ustad Natu, Ustad Saber, Ustad Rahimbakhsh, Ustad Nabigul and Ustad Mohammad Omar. Also Ustad Yaqob Qasimi, Esa Qasimi, Yusuf Qasimi, Asef Qasimi, Musa Qasimi are not only the students of Ustad Qasim Afghan but his extended family. A third generation of Ustad Qasims Students are: Ustad Breshna, and grandsons Wahid Qasimi, Abdullah Qasimi. Followers of Ustad Qasims school of music today are Zahir Howida, Nashenas and more.
Ustad Qasim Afghanâs Achievements
Award of Ivory Rubab
Title of Ustad and Afghan
Medal of Independence and a Diamond Medal of Masrat
Title of âStar of the Eastâ
Man of the Year 1929
20 acres of land awarded by Nader Shah
Gold Medal of service and a new Chevrolet by Zahir Shah
A bust of Ustad Qasim was unveiled at Radio Kabul
A gravestone from the residence of Kabul after his death.
Ustad Qasim Afghan passed on in 1957 leaving behind a school of music, a dynasty, and hundreds of songs and poems. His death was a great lost for Afghanistan and the music of Afghanistan. There are very few recordings of Ustad Qasim but his songs are very much alive on the albums of the next generation artists.